More Questions and Answers
What about foreign nationals who don’t have permanent residence authorisation or a residence permit or a work visa?
These foreign nationals may access the services and institutions of the national health service (SNS) provided that they attend at the health service located in their area of residence and present a document certifying that the national has been in Portugal for more than 90 days (certificate of residence, issued by the parish council under article 34 of DL nº135/99 of April 22).
To obtain a certificate of residence, the national must produce two witnesses who can testify as to residence; the witnesses may be individuals (persons known to the national or neighbours) or businesses (the owner of the hostel, the businesses where the national shops, or he can make a declaration of honour). After the certificate is issued by the parish council, the person should go to the health centre to register.
What about foreign minors, residing without authorisation, whose age is less than the minimum required by law for entering into an employment contract?
These minors, who depend on their families for support, may access the SNS and have the same rights as minors who are residing legally on Portuguese territory.
Can I trust the health professionals?
Yes, without a doubt. The health professionals are qualified and dedicated; they are required to maintain professional confidentiality and any information that you give them will be treated as private. Persons who are residing without authorisation need not be afraid; they should seek health services when they require them.
What should I do if I am refused health care?
You should go to the user office of the health centre or hospital, or alternatively to the user office of the sub-regional health service headquarters. You can also go to the directorate-general of health, the ministry of health or the national centre of support for immigrants.
Where can I get a medical card?
The medical card may be obtained from the local health centre or the Loja do Cidadão (government services centre).
Note: Every individual must be registered and be a holder of a medical card (or citizen’s card).
Should I have private health insurance?
If you need private health insurance in Portugal, you should make sure that you sign up with an insurance company that will pay your large medical bills directly to the hospital or doctors. Most Portuguese private health insurance companies will pay 100% of the costs associated with hospital treatment and specialist services in Portuguese hospitals. However, most do not cover the costs of family doctors or medications not received in a hospital. Some even have an excess limit and will not pay over a prescribed amount.
If you change employers or decide to leave Portugal, you will want to have continuous health insurance in the transition. If you and your family are covered by a company health plan, your insurance will probably cease after your last official day of employment. If you’re planning to change your health insurance company, you should ensure that important benefits are not lost.
By Dennis Swing Greene
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Dennis Swing Greene is Chairman and International Tax Consultant for euroFINESCO s.a.